INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Why Did Dr. Laura Get In Trouble When Bill Maher Didn’t?


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on August 26, 2010.)


Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Hypocrite. Giving marriage and family advice for 31 years when she hated her parents, didn’t talk to her mother for 18-20 years (before she was found dead in her condo two months after succumbing to heart disease), and her first marriage broke up after only five years. While defending her right to “free speech,” after the conservative host said she found a magazine that featured “stealth pornography” in a surf shop and the store owner denied it, she sued him for libel asserting he had ruined her reputation. The judge threw out the lawsuit calling it “frivolous.” And the “good doctor” had to settle the $4 million counter-lawsuit out of court.

Oh and quitter too. After not being religious for most of her life, Schlessinger, her second husband, and son converted to Orthodox Judaism in 1996 but changed her mind in 2003. She began the Laura Schlessinger Foundation in 1998 but by 2004 found it too difficult and expensive to keep underwriting. She initiated a bi-weekly column for the Santa Barbara News Press in 2006 but stopped writing in the middle of the following year, then started it up again only to give up in December 2008 (hey, I’ve been doing my column for 18 1/2 years!).
Whenever I accidentally caught her syndicated radio show, I could only listen for 10 seconds because she invariably cut off the callers and dispensed advice like some psychic who didn’t need to hear the rest of the details to understand the situation. And she was so abrasively annoying.

On Aug. 10, when she got into trouble for repeating “the N-Word” while giving a black caller, “Jade,” advice on how to deal with her white husband’s white family and friends, I thought about Bill Maher and our debates on “Politically Incorrect” nine years earlier.

He also said similar things: He as a white person should be able to say “nigga” because it had become such a part of pop culture that it was not offensive as “nigger.” So why did that part of the discussion pass without much notice while Dr. Laura felt the need to end her show as of December of this year? Maybe because hers was a one-sided debate and she exuded insensitivity as the host.

Jade: How about the N-word? So, the N-word’s been thrown around.

Dr. Laura: Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n*gg*r, n*gg*r, n*gg*r–

J: That isn’t—.

DL: I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing, but when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing…

J: I was a little caught back by the N-word that you spewed out. I have to be honest with you. But my point is, race relations—

DL: Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians.

J: But that doesn’t make it right. I mean, race is a—

DL: My dear, my dear—

J: —since Obama’s been in office.

DL: Yeah. We’ve got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that’s hilarious…Chip on your shoulder. I can’t do much about that.

J: It’s not like that.

DL: Yeah. I think you have too much sensitivity—

J: So it’s OK to say “n*gg*r?”

DL: —and not enough sense of humor.

J: It’s OK to say that word?

DL: It depends how it’s said.

J: Is it OK to say that word? Is it ever OK to say that word?

DL: It depends how it’s said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it’s OK.

J: But you’re not black. They’re not black. My husband is white.

DL: Oh, I see. So, a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can’t do much about that.

J: I can’t believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the “n*gg*r” word, and I hope everybody heard it.

DL: I didn’t spew out the “n*gg*r” word.

J: You said, “n*gg*r, n*gg*r, n*gg*r.”

DL: Right, I said that’s what you hear.

J: Everybody heard it.

DL: Yes, they did.

J: I hope everybody heard it.

DL: They did, and I’ll say it again—

J: So what makes it OK for you to say the word?

DL: —N*gg*r, N*gg*r, N*gg*r is what you hear on HBO—

J: So what makes it—

DL: Why don’t you let me finish a sentence?

J: OK.

DL: Don’t take things out of context. Don’t double N- NAACP me. Tape the—

J: I know what the NAACP—

DL: Leave them in context.

J: I know what the N-word means and I know it came from a white person. And I know the white person made it bad.

DL: All right. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Can’t have this argument. You know what? If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race. If you’re going to marry out of your race, people are going to say, “OK, what do blacks think? What do whites think? What do Jews think? What do Catholics think?” Of course there isn’t a one-think per se. But in general there’s “think.”
And what I just heard from Jade is a lot of what I hear from black-think and it’s really distressing and disturbing. And to put it in its context, she said the N-word, and I said, on HBO, listening to black comics, you hear “n*gg*r, n*gg*r, n*gg*r.” I didn’t call anybody a n*gg*r. Nice try, Jade.

Actually, sucky try…

Ah, ah, hypersensitivity, OK, which is being bred by black activists. I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown, and I don’t get it.”

By contrast, although Bill Maher was equally defiant in August 2001 on “Politically Incorrect,” black actress Anne-Marie Johnson was able to respond more passionately to his beliefs (see it at Bill Maher: Now, I have an issue about you (David Spade) called it the N-word. Blacks are like, “Whites cannot say this word.” I disagree. This word has changed in the last 10, 15 years.

Anne-Marie Johnson

Anne-Marie Johnson: According to who?

BM: According to culture! According to the fact that it’s in every—

AMJ: Ask any African American person in this audience what that means, man?!

BM: Every African American person in this room uses that word night and day! It’s in every song, it’s all through culture.

AMJ: No, you’re wrong! You’re wrong! You’re wrong!

BM: Could I finish my point before you attack it? (applause)

AMJ: Yes.

BM: OK? The word has changed. It has been co-opted as a term of endearment. There is a bad old word—

Guy Aoki: From blacks to blacks! Not from whites to blacks!

AMJ: I think I’m the only one qualified here to talk about this issue (laughs)!

GA: From blacks to blacks. There’s a very different dynamic.

Bill Maher

BM: OK. All right. Wait a second. First of all, I wouldn’t even know you were black if you didn’t tell me.

AMJ: Does it matter about color? Attitude?

BM: No, it doesn’t matter!

AMJ: See, this is what I love: I love when White people try to define African Americans (applause). What is African American, what isn’t African American. I’m African American regardless of my skin color or my hair or my clothes or my attitude. And I think I’m the only one on this stage who’s qualified to talk about the meaning of the word, how it hurts, how it doesn’t hurt, where it’s used, the history of it. Because I live it every day (applause).

BM: OK. It’s in every song. It’s in every song on the radio. OK? “Nigga (8 times)” is in every song. OK? People come up to me and go, “Bill, you a nigga.” (crowd laughter) But I can’t say “Thank you” or “No, please don’t use that word?” Or I can’t use that word back? There’s a rap group Niggaz With Attitude. My mother said to me, “What does that mean?” So I have to say, “Mom, it means ‘something’ with attitude?” I mean, I’m saying when this word has come this far into the mainstream, for a very good reason: They co-opted the word, to make it less powerful in a hurtful way.

GA: Just amongst blacks. Not for white people to call black people nigger. That still doesn’t work!

AMJ: I’m sorry, I still disagree with African Americans using the terminology. Because it proves that these young performers don’t know the history. Don’t know what—

BM: History changes!

Sarah Silverman: It’s true! Words evolve so much!

BM: Words evolve.

AMJ: No! History doesn’t change that fast—

BM: They do.

AMJ: —and we still have African Americans being lynched from trees—

BM: No, we don’t.

AMJ: —with “nigger” being burned on their back. And if it doesn’t happen in America, it happens in Europe. And let’s think about what happened in Washington—the state of Washington. Just a couple of years ago where an Ethiopian was lynched? So listen folks, it’s not a word that we can use: “Please pass the tea. Could you pass me the nigger too?” It still hurts (applause).

SS: That doesn’t even make sense!

Dr. Laura Schlessinger

In 2000, after saying the inability for gay people to physically have children was a “biological error,” gay activists got 170 sponsors of Dr. Laura’s new television talk show to drop sponsorship. CBS announced the program’s cancellation the following March. Schlessinger probably feared a similar movement being launched by the NAACP she bad-mouthed in her argument with Jade but she could’ve survived it. Yet despite being the third most listened-to disc jockey in the country with nine million listeners, she decided to pull her own plug. Her excuse? She couldn’t exercise her First Amendment rights through radio so would try to in other media like books and blogs. Right.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, she said, “I decided that I wanted to be able to express myself in a situation where I didn’t have sponsors and affiliates and employees threatened.” When asked, “Your employees were threatened?” she responded: “I’m not going to talk about that.” She said the same thing when asked, “Were you ever threatened with bodily harm?”

In other words, she’s trying to become a martyr by insinuating there were threats of violence when there really weren’t any.

As the Los Angeles Times editorial of Aug. 20 declared: “Schlessinger isn’t quitting because she can’t say what’s on her mind; she just couldn’t take the heat after she did it. To paraphrase her advice to the caller whose questions launched her racial tirade: She should just stop being so sensitive.”

Good riddance, Dr. Laura.

Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.


Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



  1. Why did Dr. Laura get kicked in the face when Bill Maher didn’t? Because people like Bill Maher but there was a lot of backed up hate for Dr. Laura. You yourself just took the opportunity to trash Dr. Laura with all kinds of mud (ableit much of what you said was probably true) in the three paragraph lengthy kick-fest opening to your piece before you got to the point.

    That’s wrong. It’s doing the wrong thing for what you believe to be the right reason and assuming that the ends will justify the means. They don’t. You, Guy Aoki, do this all the time. You try to boycott people and ban people and silence people because you don’t like what they say. But that road leads to things far far worse than a few remarks here or there stirring up a few bad memories for few people.

    I didn’t like Dr. Laura either. I got annoyed with her and turned her off too. I thought she was a bully and a hypocrite. But I also think she was the victim of a p.c. lynch mob when she made the mistake of QUOTING the N-word on her show. Yes, quoting. She was quoting rap songs and popular culture and “black guys” the same way you were quoting Bill Maher in your fifth paragraph above. By your logic, and Jade’s logic, and the logic of all the Dr. Laura haters YOU should be forced to apologize and quit too, because you have also said the N-word, even though you’re also quoting someone else.

    I did not enjoy the Dr. Laura program, but I enjoy far less the fact that she was forced into resignation by people that didn’t agree with her views–and in the name of countering racism and being politically correct. Bill Maher lost a show once for offending people with his political incorrectness even though the show itself was called “Politically Incorrect.” One might assume that you didn’t mourn that. I would hope that even you might regret the unfortunate loss of someone like Helen Thomas, however, for very much the same reason. She said something that a certain special interest group in America decided could not be spoken, and perhaps America’s last best political critic was forced to resign because someone asked her opinion and she dared say what she really believed.

    Basically, Dr. Laura got into trouble because the assassins that went after her when she slipped up were stronger and had a broader base. You and your 35 homies in Bill Maher’s audience nine years’ ago may have broken Bill’s stride here or there, but (thankfully) MANAA wasn’t big enough to make the same kind of trouble. Also, Bill, generally, is liked, but Dr. Laura managed to make a lot of enemies.

    One reporter whose piece I read right after the Dr. Laura broadcast was clearly a bitter and angry enemy who waited for her to slip up and then attacked with everything he had (his article was peppered with well discovered balls of mud similar to your “stealth pornography” reference and a few personal jabs like your “quitter” and “good riddance). You too have long been bitter and angry, waiting for someone like Sarah Silverman to use an Asian slur so you can whip out the Vinecent Chin murder from 1982 and pin it on her. Only you’re not quite as big as Mad TV so you didn’t get Sarah or Alex or Paramount into the same kind of “trouble.”

    At the end of the day, America needs to remain a free country. We have to trust that if we give a voice to people at all ends of the spectrum, the best will prevail. American needs to be a Wikipedia of ideas. You should not try to silence or ban or edit entire areas just because a word is used here or there that maybe reminds you of a bad feeling.

  2. How the heck would you know if Dr. Laura was threatened or not? This is an idiotic column and I agree with Rafu fan. This column belongs in the dustbin.

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